Quotulatiousness

February 22, 2018

The worst episode of The Avengers? “How to Succeed … at Murder”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In a column ostensibly devoted to the British Labour party’s ongoing ructions over their “all women shortlist” problems, David Cole recaps what he calls the worst episode of the brilliant 1960s British TV show The Avengers:

(Image via Aveleyman.com)

When I think of The Avengers, what comes to mind is not the bloated comic-book franchise in which overpaid actors cavort in front of a greenscreen for the masturbatory pleasure of nerds. No, to me, there is and will always be only one Avengers, and that’s the 1960s British crime and espionage TV series. As a kid, it was my favorite show, and I have fond memories of rushing home from elementary school every day to catch Emma Peel (my favorite of John Steed’s female partners) in action.

Among Avengers superfans, there is one episode that is generally considered the worst. Indeed, the episode is outright despised, because in a series lauded (and properly so) for being a trailblazer when it came to presenting strong, intelligent, and independent action heroines, the episode “How to Succeed…at Murder” is seen as a giant chauvinistic step backward. It’s known as the “anti-feminist” episode, the one that took the show’s message of female empowerment and stood it on its head. “How to Succeed…at Murder” was first broadcast in March 1966. The setup is typical Avengers-style mystery. Prominent businessmen are being murdered by unknown assailants, and it’s up to Steed and Peel to get to the bottom of it. It turns out, a group of sexy female ballet students have created a secret society dedicated to the destruction of powerful men. They use their feminine charms to get hired as secretaries, only to quickly begin taking control of the business to the point that when they murder the boss, ownership falls to them. The society’s motto is “Ruination to all men.”

Mrs. Peel infiltrates the group and learns that the girls take their orders from a female marionette, which seems to speak and move on its own. In a voice somewhat resembling that of a drag queen, the marionette explains the group’s mission: “To take woman out of the secretary’s chair and put her behind the executive desk. To bring men to heel and put women at the pinnacle of power.”

The marionette’s “helper” is Henry, the clumsy, doughy owner of the ballet school where the secret society meets.

Emma is soon exposed as an infiltrator, and it’s up to Steed to confront the evil ballerinas on their home turf. “No man will dominate us again,” the girls crow as they hold Steed at gunpoint. However, the unflappable Steed quickly deduces that the marionette is actually being controlled remotely by…Henry. Yep, these women had a male boss all along! Revealed as the mastermind, Henry tearfully explains that following the loss of his late wife’s ballet company at the hands of greedy investors, he vowed vengeance against powerful businessmen (it’s also revealed that the marionette is crafted in his wife’s image, and Henry, his mind bent by grief, actually believes he’s his dead wife when he gives the puppet voice). To achieve his revenge against the business world, Henry took advantage of the anti-male sentiments of his students. “No man will ever dominate you?” Steed mockingly asks the girls. “You’ve been taking orders from a man all this time!” As the murderous dancers stand crestfallen, their mouths agape, their boastfulness sapped, Emma disarms the lead girl and beats the living crap out of each and every one of them.

You cannot read a review of this episode on any Avengers fansite without encountering the words “sexist,” “reactionary,” or “misogynistic.” The vitriol stems from the fact that the man-hating feminists turn out to be gullible morons. In their fanatical crusade against male domination, they inadvertently allowed a weak, delusional man-who-believes-he’s-a-woman to dominate and control them.

February 16, 2018

Trump’s Fake News: Deep Breaths and Fact-Checking Might Just Save America

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ReasonTV
Published on 15 Feb 2018

President Trump labels whatever he dislikes as “fake news,” and makes up his own, but the media is part of the problem. In the latest “Mostly Weekly,” Andrew Heaton provides a solution.

—————-

Donald Trump tends to call whatever he dislikes “fake news,” from inconvenient facts to unfavorable reporting. Even though the President himself is less a font of truth and more a spigot of self-serving exaggeration and insults.

But Trump isn’t all wrong when he labels reporting against him as fictitious or slanted. Reporters have become so enraged with the President that in their hurry to lambast him, they sometimes forget about fact checking and standard quality controls.

The result is that actual “fake news” is slipping into major news outlets. When hit pieces turn out to be false, they bolster Trump’s claims about the media and discredit journalists in the eyes of his supporters.

In the latest “Mostly Weekly” Andrew Heaton explains the relationship between “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” fake news, and a solution for the media.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton, with headwriter Sarah Rose Siskind.

Script by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and Brian Sack.

Special guest appearance by Brian Sack as “TV doctor”

Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

February 7, 2018

QotD: You are not the customer … you’re the product

Filed under: Business, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As we enter the third 24-hour period of relentless media coverage, the part where even the local TV stations have custom bumpers for the incident with distinctive theme music, let’s make sure we have some things clear.

TV news does not sell news to you.

TV news sells commercial time to corporations and your eyeballs are the poker chips in the card game.

Atrocities (and let’s keep our terminology straight: hurricanes and earthquakes are tragedies, this was an atrocity) are like a Double Bonus Round in the Eyeball Delivery Sweepstakes for FOXNews and CNN and MSNBC.

And all this attention is just incentivizing the next Eyeball Deliverer out there, patiently loading magazines (or mixing fertilizer, or dumping powder into pressure cookers, or studying a flight manual, or filling jerry cans…)

And, yes, ironically this post is just more attention being paid, and by complaining about the problem I make myself a part of it. It’s a hell of a thing.

Tamara Keel, “Terminology, again”, View From The Porch, 2016-06-14.

February 2, 2018

“Europeans like the U.S. to be a great St. Bernard dog that takes the risks and does the work, while they hold the leash and give the orders”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Conrad Black on how the European press in general — and the British press in particular — view the United States:

A week in England has enabled me to see more clearly the absurdity of the depths and length that the political scandal-mongering in the United States has achieved. Most of the British media are anti-American anyway, and, like most of America’s so-called allies, Britain likes weak American presidents who are fluent and courteous, other than when they are themselves in mortal peril, at which point strong American presidents suddenly are appreciated. Generally, the Western European attitude toward the U.S. evolved from fervent and almost worshipful hope for rescue by Roosevelt, to appreciative, even grateful recognition for Truman and Marshall’s military and economic support of non-Communist Europe, while fretting whether America would “stay the course” (Mr. Churchill’s concern), to complacent patronization in the post-Suez Eisenhower-Dulles era. Europe, like most of the world, swooned over John F. Kennedy and genuinely mourned his tragic death, but it has been slim pickings since. Johnson was regarded as a boor and an amateur, and, on the left, a war criminal. Richard Nixon was regarded with suspicion and then the customary orchestrated opprobrium, though with grudging respect for his strategic talents. Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush were regarded as dolts, though Reagan, whose anti-missile defense plan was regarded with shrieks of derision and fear, was seen, long after he left office, as possibly useful. Clinton was likeable but déclassé, and Obama was greatly welcomed but ultimately a disappointment. The Europeans like the U.S. to be a great St. Bernard dog that takes the risks and does the work, while they hold the leash and give the orders.

With Donald Trump, the British and most Western Europeans have the coruscation of their dreams that the United States is a vulgar, completely materialistic, cultureless Darwinian contest of the most tasteless and unsavory elements, elevating people in their public life who excel at the country’s least attractive national characteristics. In the British national media there is almost never a remotely insightful or fair commentary on anything to do with President Trump. At one point last week, Ambassador John Bolton had what amounted to a debate with some academic British supporter of the Paris climate accord, and of feeble responses to all international crises, from Ukraine to Syria to North Korea. Both participants were speaking from remote locations and were on large screens, and the moderator’s questions were posed in such a provoking and tendentious manner to John Bolton that he began his last several responses with the stated assumption that the management of Britain’s national television network presumably approved of framing questions on such serious subjects in a deliberately dishonest way, and then answered effectively. The BBC correspondent in Washington uniformly referred to “Donald Trump” or just “Trump” and never to “President Trump” or to “the president,” as normal professional usage requires. The Economist, a distinguished magazine for many decades, follows the same route, referring to Mr. Trump as a “bad” or “poor” president, as if this were an indisputable and universally agreed fact.

The British, and to a large degree the major continental powers, slavishly repeat the Trumpophobic feed from the American national media and justify “Trump’s” view that most of the media propagate lies as a matter of policy, and that America’s allies are largely freeloaders — passengers of the Pentagon with no loyalty to the country that liberated them from Nazism and protected them from Soviet Communism. Senator McCain’s editorial criticism of the president in the New York Times two weeks ago, that his attacks on the press weakened democracy by demeaning a free press, is bunk. The president was closer, though, as is his wont, was slightly carried away, when he called the primal-scream newscasters and writers “enemies of the people.” They are even worse abroad.

January 12, 2018

President Oprah?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I didn’t watch the TV or movie awards show that Oprah used to launch her presidential campaign test balloon, but many others did. Those who watched it generally came away very impressed, based on mentions in my various social media feeds. Those who read it later include skeptics like Colby Cosh:

The Oprah for President boomlet didn’t last long, did it? Oprah Winfrey is somebody who has been discussed occasionally as a semi-serious presidential candidate since the early 1990s. The talk-show hostess accumulated so much cultural and financial capital so quickly, once she became a national television figure, that the thought has always been universal: if she really wanted to run, it is hard to see how she could be stopped.

Indeed, if the Americans elected her, she would undoubtedly turn out to have the same sort of presidential “pre-history” that Donald Trump did. People had been making “President Trump” jokes for ages, although we never noticed quite how many of those jokes there were until they all came true and weren’t jokes anymore.

On Sunday night, Oprah give an acceptance speech for a lifetime-achievement award at the Golden Globes, and people found it so stirring that it started a mini-wave of “Oprah 2020” references and remarks on social media. What was most interesting about the speech was not its intensity or its profundity, but the fact that it was, self-evidently, designed as a political candidate’s address.

[…]

If you would like a Hollywood liberal president, or any president other than the one the United States has, criticizing Oprah goes against your immediate partisan interests. (At least it probably does. Is anyone really too sure about the character of her personal core politics?) There is no sense denying it: if she did run, she probably could win. In 2016 we all got a stark lesson in just how much televisual familiarity, a large personal fortune, and control of media attention can accomplish in a presidential election.

And, of course, she has enormous charisma. Even those of us who think her influence on American culture has been baleful must acknowledge there is something magnificent and stately about her, and that she represents the American dream about as well as any individual human could. Financially, Donald Trump can only dream of having her track record — and, probably, her fortune.

It doesn’t mean she should be president. One almost suspects that the Oprah 2020 trial balloon might have enjoyed more success if it had been launched six months ago. Amid the tearful liberal trauma that followed the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Of All Time, the despairing temptation to seek a television president even more familiar than Trump was bound to be more powerful. The passage of time, combined with Ms. Clinton’s obnoxious re-litigation of a strategically dumb campaign, may have helped blue America regain its senses. This is, I think, good news. And not just for the liberals.

December 28, 2017

QotD: The 1960s cultural revolution

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The entire political and cultural trajectory of the decades following World War II in the U.S. was a movement away from the repressions of the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union, when the House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives searched for signs of Communist subversion in every area of American life. A conspicuous target was the Hollywood film industry, where many liberals had indeed been drawn to the Communist Party in the 1930s, before the atrocities of the Stalinist regime were known. To fend off further federal investigation, the major studios blacklisted many actors, screenwriters, and directors, some of whom, like a favorite director of mine, Joseph Losey, fled the country to find work in Europe. Pete Seeger, the leader of the politicized folk music movement whose roots were in the social activism of Appalachian coal-miners in the 1930s, was banned from performing on network TV in the U.S. in the 1950s and ‘60s.

There were sporadic landmark victories for free speech in the literary realm. In 1957, local police raided the City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco and arrested the manager and owner, Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for selling an obscene book, Allen Ginsberg’s epic protest poem, Howl. After a long, highly publicized trial, Howl was declared not obscene, and the charges were dropped. The Grove Press publishing house, owned by Barney Rosset, played a heroic role in the battle against censorship in the U.S. In 1953, Grove Press began publishing affordable, accessible paperbacks of the voluminous banned works of the Marquis de Sade, a major thinker about sex and society at the close of the Enlightenment. In 1959, the Grove Press edition of D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, then banned in the U.S., was confiscated as obscene by the U.S. Postal Service. Rosset sued and won the case on federal appeal. In 1961, the publication by Grove Press of another banned book, Henry Miller’s 1934 novel, Tropic of Cancer, led to 60 obscenity trials in the U.S. until in 1964 it was declared not obscene and its publication permitted.

One of the supreme symbols of newly militant free speech was Lenny Bruce, who with Mort Sahl transformed stand-up comedy from its innocuous vaudevillian roots into a medium of biting social and political commentary. Bruce’s flaunting of profanity and scatology in his improvisational onstage act led to his arrest for obscenity in San Francisco in 1961, in Chicago in 1962, and in New York in 1964, where he and Howard Solomon, owner of the Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, were found guilty of obscenity and sentenced to jail. Two years later, while his conviction was still under appeal, Bruce died of a drug overdose at age 40.

This steady liberalizing trend was given huge impetus by the sexual revolution, which was launched in 1959 by the marketing of the first birth control pill. In Hollywood, the puritanical studio production code, which had been adopted in the early 1930s under pressure from conservative groups like the Legion of Decency and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was gradually breaking down and was finally abandoned by the late 1960s. The new standard of sexual expression was defined by European art films, with their sophisticated scripts and frank nudity. Pop music pushed against community norms: in 1956, Elvis Presley’s hip-swiveling gyrations were cut off by the TV camera as too sexual for the Ed Sullivan Show, which was then a national institution. As late as 1967, the Ed Sullivan Show was trying to censor the song lyrics of major bands like the Doors and the Rolling Stones, who were imitating the sexual explicitness of rural and urban African-American blues. (The Stones capitulated to Sullivan, but the Doors fought back — and were never invited on his show again.) Middle-class college students in the 1960s, including women, began freely using four-letter words that had rarely been heard in polite company, except briefly during the flapper fad of the 1920s. In the early 1970s, women for the first time boldly entered theaters showing pornography and helped make huge hits out of X-rated films like Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door, and The Devil in Miss Jones.

In short, free speech and free expression, no matter how offensive or shocking, were at the heart of the 1960s cultural revolution. Free speech was a primary weapon of the Left against the moralism and conformism of the Right.

Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech”, Heat Street, 2016-05-09.

December 21, 2017

UFOs? Again?

Filed under: Media, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I must admit I share Colby Cosh’s just disproven belief that we were done with the UFO craze:

Yeah, I know: wrong UFO

There can no longer be any doubt: every fashion phenomenon does come back. I, for one, really thought we had seen the last of UFO-mania. When I was a boy, the idea of stealthy extraterrestrial visitors zooming around in miraculous aircraft was everywhere in the nerdier corners of popular culture. If you liked comic books or paperback science fiction or Omni magazine — and especially if those things were among the staples of your imaginative diet — there was no getting away from it.

Anyone remember the NBC series Project U.F.O. (1978-79), inspired by the USAF’s real Project Blue Book program? As the anthology show’s Wikipedia page observes, most episodes had the plot of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, only backwards: they would end with the investigating protagonists discovering that UFOs remained impenetrably Unidentifiable, but must be “real” craft capable of physically improbable manoeuvres. (I know citing Wikipedia will savour of pumpkin-spice holiday laziness on my part, but the Scooby thing is a truly perceptive point by some anonymous Wiki-genius.)

Then, at the end of the show, a disclaimer would appear on-screen: “The U.S. Air Force stopped investigating UFOs in 1969. After 22 years, they found no evidence of extra-terrestrial landings and no threat to national security.”

[…]

There are very good reasons for a superpower’s military apparatus to devote a little money to following up UFO sightings. “Threat Identification”? Sure, whatever. Plenty of U.S. military flyers have seen UFOs, and these people ought to be comfortable reporting odd occurrences without ridicule. But if I were American, I would definitely want most of that budget to go to Scully rather than Mulder. Don’t throw cash at someone who really, really wants to believe.

What I find vexing is that most of the response to the Times story has been in the spirit of “Whoa, aliens!” rather than “Taxpayers got robbed.” Young people may know on some level that ubiquitous good-quality cameras have all but eliminated civilian UFO sightings. But they lack the personal memory of a live, thriving UFO fad, one that bred quasi-scholarly international UFO-study associations along with a whole publishing industry devoted to UFO tales. I wonder if the Times’ piece on UFO research, by the very virtue of its flat-voiced Grey Lady objectivity, is having the same weird effect as that disclaimer they showed at the end of Project U.F.O.

Repost – The Monkees – “Riu Chiu” HD (Official Music Video) – from THE MONKEES – THE COMPLETE SERIES Blu Ray

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 15 Dec 2015

The Monkees perform “Riu Chiu” from Episode 47, “The Monkees’ Christmas Show”.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

December 15, 2017

Rowan Atkinson is Doctor Who | Comic Relief

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Comic Relief
Published on 16 Mar 2009

Doctor Who Comic Relief Special starring Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Hugh Grant, Jonathan Pryce and Joanna Lumley.

December 2, 2017

Reaching the limits of the “Burleigh effect”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR on the recent wave of news about sexual misdeeds of powerful politicians and prominent members of the media:

So, John Conyers now hints that members of Congress have been covering up widespread sexual assaults and workplace harassment from within their ranks for years, and that if he goes down lots of others will go down with him.

This is credible. We already know Congress has been paying out hush money to the tune of $17M to keep a lid on such allegations. That figure suggests that if there’s full disclosure, the carnage is going to be terrible.

But…Democrats will get hurt a lot worse than Republicans.

Why do I say this? Because Republicans have already been through a media hostility filter. The same J. Random Reporter (and Reporterette) that will manufacture chin-tugging excuses for the likes of Bill Clinton or Al Franken positively slavers at the thought of catching some old white conservative dude with his pants down. It is therefore likely that the really egregious Republican cases are already over.

Democrats, on the other hand, have been protected by what I’ll call the Burleigh effect. You remember Nina Burleigh, who said in public she’d give Bill Clinton a blowjob if it would protect abortion rights? Yeah, that.

The sewage the press has been not covering (Cokie Roberts said every female reporter in DC knew not to get on an elevator with Conyers) is likely to bust loose now. Especially because the hard-left faction of the Democrats obviously sees this as a way to purge the Clintonites.

I predict it’s going to be a grim time to be a Democrat in the next three months. Republicans will doubtless try to prolong the agony into the 2018 election season, and might succeed. In any case their campaign to stop the odious Ray Moore is looking pretty doomed,

November 27, 2017

Steve Kates on growing up in a communist home

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Catallaxy Files, Steve Kates reflects on how his early upbringing gave him insights into modern political discourse:

The one blessing about being brought up in a communist household is that you understand the left a good deal better than most. It also brings an added measure of concern when I see how easily a public unused to lying as a tactic is influenced by these manoeuvres which are standard practice on the left. My Dad was an expert in agit prop and I grew up understanding the role of the agent provocateur only too well. These are not well-meaning individuals who wish to investigate the truth. They are individuals whose only interest is to disrupt the communications among those on the other side through whatever lies they might find convenient and they hope persuasive.

[…] You will be lied to by the left to the furthest extent they believe they can get away with. That there is not an instantaneous scepticism amongst us on this side of politics from any unverified political story carried by a mainstream media organisation fills me with dread since most of us are so middle class that we find it hard to believe others will lie, distort, or withhold relevant information without the slightest hesitation if it serves their ends. The attitude you need to take when reading anything from an MSM report is the same attitude you might take when buying a used car. Do not trust a thing you are told and make sure you verify everything you can from a separate source.

Dishonesty is the trade mark of the left, not that they have a monopoly, but it is a specific tactic aimed at the fair minded who are seldom as aware as they need to be of the practice, and seldom think of the need to guard against the premeditated lies they tell. […] The interesting part is that for the left to succeed, they can only achieve their ends by lying. For the right, what you hear people say is almost invariably what they believe. The left often mimics the same concerns but it is tactical and never substantive unless for a change good policy overlaps what they see as tactical advantage.

The one valuable part of being on this side of the fence is that with so many out there on the left who will swarm around any genuine falsehood stated by someone on the right, the standard of probity is higher. This is part of the reason why sex scandals, to just name the issue in relation to Roy Moore, are not as common on the right as on the left. Except that when they are caught out – such as with Bill Clinton – it is no longer a scandal and is put to bed as soon as it is practical to do so. They never mean it. It is not hypocrisy, it is a policy of deceit. They are perfectly aware they are lying and just take the rest of us for fools.

November 14, 2017

“…the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

I stopped watching much television on a regular basis by the time I was in my late teens, so I’m certainly not qualified to talk about what shows might qualify as the greatest Canadian TV, but Colby Cosh points to Justin McElroy’s NCAA-style tournament bracket of Canadian TV (English language only) as perhaps the most accurate representation we’re likely to see:

The bracket provides for an interesting overview — necessarily short-sighted, and skewed toward shows that an online audience has a chance of remembering — of Canada’s English-language television history. McElroy made the choice to organize the “tournament” in thematic quadrants, which created an immediate problem in the small 16-show version of the bracket. Literally all the best English Canadian programs for adult audiences have been comedies, and were packed in with each other in the early rounds.

This is still a bit of a problem in the expanded version, and I am cross with McElroy for setting it up this way, but it is his baby. And when I think about it, I admire the way he made pretty indisputable choices within the comedy category. His original four comedy invitees to the tournament were SCTV, Corner Gas, The Kids in the Hall, and Trailer Park Boys.

That’s… pretty much the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups, isn’t it? I have a special fondness for SCTV, which is part generational and part parochial: if I peep over the top of my desktop Mac right now, I can look down at the plaza where they shot the walk-and-talk sequence in Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas’s “Play It Again, Bob.” And I could go have lunch in the restaurant where they wrote it, too.

SCTV’s capture of an NBC time slot, its (now widely acknowledged) out-competing of Saturday Night Live, and its monumental role in the imaginations of today’s influential comedians make it a special Canadian treasure. And it has aged pretty well: people of all ages still laugh at “Count” Floyd Robertson, I think.

[…]

These shows all did what is often thought to be nigh-impossible for Canadian TV: they found devoted, permanent international fans. Nearly all the shows in the other brackets are mere schlocky Canadiana, of no enduring interest to anyone else on the planet. The Degrassi franchise is perhaps the major exception — and even it might be called schlocky Canadiana, if we’re being frank with one another. Its reputation in the U.S. depends heavily on the social-realist adventurousness that the Canadian broadcast environment permitted: for Americans it seems to be almost like watching another country’s weird porn.

However, no mention of the great shows of Canadian [content] TV would be complete without at least a tip of the hat to one of the worst TV shows ever made.

November 3, 2017

QotD: Perhaps we were lucky that Firefly got cancelled when it did…

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

This cult classic made the list not for being overtly “conservative”, but mainly for being “not liberal”. The universe of Firefly is some other solar system with “dozens of planets and hundreds of moons”. Some of these are closer than others to the “core” planets, which are under control of the “Alliance”, a plus-sized, technologically-advanced and repressive system of government. The outer planets and moons have less technology, and even less law, i.e Alliance control, but subsequently greater freedom. Firefly producer Joss Whedon, a stereotypical Hollywood lefty, somehow (inadvertently?) imbued Firefly with a heavily libertarian sensibility, which may not be exactly conservative, but it definitely isn’t liberal. Progressive fans of the show may be tempted to fantasize about the Alliance being an oppressive right-wing government, but that would make the “Browncoat” rebels rat bastard commie revolutionaries, and that makes no sense. The Browncoats are not interested in destroying civilization and putting a new one in its place, rather, they just want to be left alone. Their motto can best be described as “Don’t Tread On Me”, not “Workers of the World, Unite”.

Almost every science fiction fan, to a man, bemoans the fact that Firefly was yanked after only 11 episodes, and their dreams are filled what could-have-beens. I, however, take the contrarian view that the cancellation of Firefly was A Good Thing, a blessing in disguise that helped preserve it when it was still a quality show. For it would not have continued a quality show. I believe that Joss Whedon’s perverse Hollywood lefty views would have eventually seeped into Firefly the way a dead rat behind the baseboard will stink up the entire kitchen. A similar thing happened with Battlestar Galactica, as Jonah Goldberg argues in this Commentary article from 2009.

“Whither Conservative TV Shows? [OregonMuse]”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2016-03-19.

October 2, 2017

Is it becoming time to let the NFL’s “chips fall where they may”?

Filed under: Business, Football, Law, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The modern NFL as we know it enjoys a legal privilege through an act of Congress, allowing the league to negotiate TV rights as a single organization and sharing the revenue equally among all the constituent teams. In City Journal, Steven Malanga recounts the history of how that privilege was granted:

Many sports fans know that Major League Baseball has a unique exemption from the nation’s antitrust laws, thanks to a 1922 Supreme Court decision, which perplexingly ruled that baseball teams do not engage in interstate commerce. Less well understood, however, is that the National Football League retains its own federal exemption through legislation that has allowed the league’s teams to cooperate on television contracts — a gift from Washington that has been crucial to the development of the modern NFL. Over the years, the exemption has proved controversial, though bipartisan calls to revoke or narrow it have never gained much traction. The exemption deserves a fresh look with the players’ extreme politicization of the league, in which they have been aided and abetted by the owners, who have allowed and even taken part in unprecedented partisan posturing — broadcast to the nation via Congress-approved TV deals.

According to NFL mythology, the league’s success is the result of the vision of its mid-1950s and 1960s leadership, including the marketing savvy of former commissioner Pete Rozelle. But the real cornerstone of the NFL’s rise was successful Washington lobbying by league leadership, after a court ruled in 1961 that NFL teams could not negotiate broadcasting rights as a group, because such power would violate antitrust laws against monopolization. Rozelle got a New York congressman, Emanuel Cellar, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Anti-Trust and Monopoly, to introduce what’s become known as the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which provided limited antitrust exemption, allowing teams to pool their efforts for the sake of negotiating TV deals. When President Kennedy signed the legislation, it permitted a $4.65 million broadcast deal that the NFL had crafted with CBS for the rights to televise football games. The price of broadcasting packages quickly accelerated, especially after the merger of the NFL and the old AFL, and the antitrust exemption allowed for such singular NFL successes as Monday Night Football, introduced in 1970.

Though the act also applies to professional baseball, hockey, and basketball teams, its significance to the NFL came to outweigh the benefits to other leagues, because pro football—with many fewer games per season—exclusively and collectively sells all its TV rights through monopoly pooling, then distributes the revenues to teams equally. Without this exemption, each team would have to negotiate its television contracts individually, which would be fine for powerful teams like the Dallas Cowboys that could probably arrange to have all their games broadcast nationally, but less advantageous for weak teams such as the Cleveland Browns, which might struggle even for local coverage.

[…] The majority of companies in America would not, and do not, allow demonstrations at work by individual employees on political issues unrelated to their employment — just the sort of demonstrations begun last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and carried on through this weekend by more than 200 players. That the owners have tolerated and lately even encouraged such protests over an issue — charges of police brutality — that divides many Americans is a business risk that they seem willing to take. But the league’s use of its platform — created by its federal antitrust exemption — to broadcast its message across the country is more than a simple business matter. It represents an improper use of resources made available to the NFL by special federal legislation. It’s past time to revoke the Sports Broadcasting Act — and let the “chips fall where they may.”

September 22, 2017

Fifteen years later

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Craig Tomashoff talks to several of the cast and crew of Firefly:

In the Beginning

Minear: I knew this show felt special and important, but I didn’t realize what it was going to be at that early stage. It really wasn’t until we were into the making of it that it hit me. Once the show was cast and the spaceship (Serenity) was built, then it was a different story. It has been a very complicated process up to that point because Fox didn’t like the pilot. They made Joss go back and add some humor. He did what he could without damaging the pilot, but they never really understood what Firefly was and never loved it. This was all happening right before the 2002 upfronts, and the network was trying to decide if it was going to go for another season of their sci-fi show Dark Angel or pick up this Joss Whedon space show. They couldn’t see in their head what an hour of this show would look like and told us they weren’t sure we’d get a pickup. Joss and I said we’d write a first episode over that weekend before the announcements and they said OK. Then we asked ourselves, “Are we crazy? Can we do this in two days?” But we spent two days at Joss’ Mutant Enemy office, where we broke the story and each wrote half of the episode. And by Monday morning, we had written the “Train Job” episode [which was written as the show’s second episode but aired as the pilot Sept. 20, 2002] and the network liked it. And we got picked up.

Berman: Firefly had an incredibly good pilot script, very ahead of its time. I remember it generating a lot of excitement inside the company and we were hopeful it was going to be a brand-new franchise for us. And when it came to casting, Joss was also very forward thinking as he always was. He put together a remarkably intelligent and diverse group.

Getting to Know You

Gina Torres (Zoe Washburne): I was given an outline, but no script, when I auditioned. It was a detailed outline from Joss, and it ran through the big strokes and pieces of scenes that would potentially be in the actual script. I remember thinking, at the very end of reading the outline, though this was a sci-fi show, there were no aliens and no mutants. It was an intriguing take, a sci-fi Western. So I said, “OK, I’ll meet.” Buffy and Angel weren’t a part of my world, but I knew that the guy who created them had had great success. When Joss called me in to read, he said I was just coming in to see producers. Right from the beginning, this show was unlike anything I had experienced. There was no script and one guy auditioning me.

Sean Maher (Simon Tam): The material I was given was the scene from the pilot where Simon explains to the crew what had happened to his sister — the “I am very smart” speech. Given that there wasn’t a script, my first question when I met Joss to audition was, “Can you tell me about the show?” He proceeded to paint this extraordinary picture of this wonderfully unique world he had created. I was sold.

Alan Tudyk (Hoban Washburne): I was doing a play in New York when my agent sent me a description of the pilot. I had a friend who’d done a Buffy episode, and when I asked about Joss and if I should go in for a show of his, the answer was the most emphatic “yes” you could get. I did a test on DVD but then forgot about it. Then, I ended up out in Los Angeles for another audition and was about to come home when my agent said they wanted to test me for this show Firefly. I’d forgotten what it even was at that point, figuring that if my audition DVD wasn’t in the trash it was at least trash adjacent. But a week after I went in, I got the part.

Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb): I knew nothing about the show until I auditioned. I loved Westerns and shoot-’em-ups when I was little. I would watch them with my dad, so that was great. I put on a grumbly voice in my audition, kind of like in those old movies, and they let me just go with it in the show.

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